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First Name: Edward George Last Name: MARTIN
Date of Death: 01/07/1916 Lived/Born In: Brentford
Rank: Private Unit: Middlesex16
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Hawthorne Ridge Cemetery1, Auchonvillers

The opening day of the Battle of the Somme 1st July 1916

This was a disastrous day for the British Army in France. Eleven divisions of Fourth Army attacked along a 15 mile front from Maricourt to Serre. Two further divisions of Third Army launched a diversionary attack just to the north of Serre at Gommecourt. For a week beforehand the British artillery pounded the German trenches but the Germans had been there for a long time and they had constructed deep, concrete reinforced shelters beneath their trenches and many survived the bombardment. The troops went over the top at 7.30 am but even before they had left their overcrowded trenches, many had been killed or maimed by German artillery. The Germans knew that they were coming. Once in No-Man’s-Land the artillery continued to take its toll and then the machine guns opened up on the advancing British infantry. They fell in their thousands and the attack came to a standstill almost everywhere. Survivors sought cover wherever they could find it and at night they crawled back to their own lines, often dragging a wounded soldier with them. Only in the south were any advances made with the attack on Fricourt and Mametz. Over 19,000 British soldiers were killed on this day, including 2,500 from London.

29th Division attacked either side of Beaumont-Hamel towards the northern end of the line. 86 Brigade were on a front from the Hawthorne Redoubt to the northern edge of Beaumont-Hamel itself. The attack was made by 2nd Royal Fusiliers and 1st Lancashire Fusiliers but in the face of ferocious machine gun fire very few made it across no-man’s land. 16th Middlesex were in support of 1st Lancashire Fusiliers and they moved up from Auchonvillers to their assembly positions  in Cripp’s Cut and Cardiff Street.  From here on there is little information in either the Battalion or the Brigade diaries. Nor is there any mention of 16th Middlesex getting as far as no-man’s land. If that is the case we must assume that their casualties, which amounted to over 500, were mostly caused by shellfire as they moved across open ground towards the British front line from their starting off point. By mid morning, with the attack a complete failure, what was left of 16th Middlesex took over the front line trenches at Auchonvillers. 

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